Two things inspired this article. One, Corbyn and Barry Gardiner’s suddenly fierce Euroscepticism being given a free voice (and the subsequent kickback from numerous figures within Labour as a result) and two, an article in the Spectator by Ed West entitled “I’m a Leaver who would be happy for a second referendum“. They are perfect examples of the poles which are now changing and in many ways inverting the debate around Brexit.
On the Left, there is a train of thought that goes something like this: Jeremy is just faking with his pro-Brexit stuff; he is saying what he needs to in order to keep the UKIPy voters happy, so that Labour can win an election, and once that happens, Corbyn will drop Brexit completely and we’ll stay in the EU. This has become an increasingly ridiculous position to defend. It is clear to anyone remotely objective that Corbyn is exercising his long held Euroscepticism with the following plan in mind: the Tories blow apart over Brexit, leading to a Labour election victory; at that point, however, we’ll be out of the EU and able to not be held back by Brussels rules about anything from State Aid to property rights in constructing EngSoc, the 21st century version.
Some people on the Right, like Ed West, have cordoned onto this scheme at long last. “If history is indeed one great black comedy then I appreciate this one, even if it’s on us. So if Brexit does indeed lead to economic crisis and Corbyn is swept to power for ten years, we’ll end up relying on a UK En Marche to beg our way back into the EU to save us from Communism,” West writes in the Spectator. Some Eurosceptics on the Right are absorbing the fact that Brexit could indeed be the route to some suicidal left-wing policy making that membership of the EU wouldn’t allow. I have long argued that it is much easier to make Eurosceptic arguments from the left as opposed to the right; the EU is mostly a free-trade capitalist project, after all. Constructing a truly socialist society from within the confines of EU membership would be next to impossible – and Corbyn and McDonnell have long known this.
Ed West goes on to say: “I voted Leave but if it looks like clearly being an economic disaster, then it’s ridiculous to pursue it whatever the cost. In no field does someone continue along the same course, knowing it will end in complete failure, whatever the consequences.” This throws up an interesting viewpoint, again, one I have long argued: there is nothing I can think of less conservative than leaving the EU with no deal. We can have an argument about whether Britain would come out better, worse and about the same; what you cannot argue is that such a manoeuvre wouldn’t represent massive change for Britain. Again, I thought that was what conservatism existed to be against.
What all of this makes me wonder is will the Left turn pro-Brexit once they absorb the fact fully that Jeremy isn’t faking his Euroscepticism? On the flipside, will there be more Ed West’s coming out of the woodwork, those on the Right who have figured out that if Brexit is going to be a car crash it should not be pursued at all costs, and further that the argument that David Cameron should have made for Remaining but didn’t, namely that we should stay in the EU for conservative reasons, should now come to the fore?
I look forward to seeing where this all leads to. May you live in interesting times indeed.